Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 27th 2012
Mahoromatic: I'm Home!
Shortly after Minawa came to live with Suguru and Mahoro (and about a third of the way through Mahoro's remaining life span), the time for the town of Hiryushi's 120th anniversary festival arrives. Suguru and friends decide to create a maid café for their contribution to the festival and end up gathering at Suguru's house on a regular basis to get the work done on the maid outfits and props. Although Mahoro initially declines to work at the café, for she feels that it would be improper for a professional maid to do so, she and Minawa eventually get enticed into participating in more than just a support capacity. The Management android Feldrance has been keeping an eye on Minawa, however, leading to Mahoro and Minawa having to fend off robotic attacks.
I'm Home is a two-episode OVA series originally released in the fall of 2009 as a side story to 2002-2003's Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful, the second season of Mahoromatic - Automatic Maiden. Its events take place between episodes 2 and 3 of that series and primarily serve to further elaborate on the relationships between the series' various characters; if viewed in chronological order, it provides definite indicators about the directions that the relationships will go in later in the second season. Although the two episodes deliver no significant revelations, they do succeed at fully retaining the style, composition, and sentiment of the base series, something that the franchise's other OVA entry, the Summer Special, spectacularly failed to do.
Whereas the Summer Special stumbled primarily because it tried to milk one tired gag for more than it was worth, I'm Home avoids that pitfall by simply playing out like a regular pair of second-season episodes. It keeps a simpler focus on more typical, low-key activities by the main cast members, whether it be Minawa struggling with her clumsiness in attempting to be a maid, the “Triomatic” girls scheming to each get some alone-time with Suguru, or Mahoro's squabbling with Ms. Shikijo over breast size and inappropriate behavior towards Suguru. As per the norm, it finds its opportunities to infuse in some nudity and punctuates more mundane events with some fairly intense bursts of action and violence, while the whole “maid café” business provides a little bonus fan-pandering to boot. These episodes also have their share of comedy, too, although the running gags about Chizuko's overly-dramatic reactions to good food and Ms. Shikijo's shotacon fetish are more than a little on the tired side by this point.
Most importantly, these two episodes retain the sentiment which underpins the franchise. For all of its craziness and fan service, Mahoromatic has always had more substance to it than most other “super-powered girl living with male protagonist” series, partly due to it having genuine heart and emotion and partly due to the underlying sadness of Mahoro's circumstances. These episodes not only acknowledge that but also take advantage of it, resulting in one scene of sobering poignancy and other moments which show a degree of genuine caring that other franchises wish they could evoke. It isn't just the countdown timer at the end of each episode which ticks down Mahoro's remaining days, either; for not the first time the OVAs deal with Mahoro's inability to honestly promise to do something again the next year since she has limited time left. It's an effect akin to a speaker talking casually about the future to someone whom he doesn't know is suffering from a terminal illness.
Gainax returns some of its key staff from the original series to work on this project, including character designer and chief animation director Kazuhiro Takamura and director Shouji Saeki, who rises from the ranks of episode director (and director for Summer Special) to helm this effort. The result is a look and feel to the artistry and animation nearly identical to that of the original series, albeit somewhat improved. The background art in certain scenes definitely gets an upgrade, the coloring seems a little richer, and the character rendering is a little sharper. Action scenes feature the distinctive animation style that was a hallmark of the original and detailed nudity and occasional undergarment flashes still pop up – and yes, the youth of some of the subjects makes the fan service as edgy as it ever was, even though the actual nudity is always used within a proper context. (Perhaps partly because of that, the DVD carries a TV-MA rating, an upgrade from the 16+ rating the original DVDs carried.) Mahoromatic was never a stellar artistic achievement, and these episodes still do suffer from some roughness, quality control lapses, and animation shortcuts, but this is as good as the franchise has ever looked.
The musical score, contrarily, has regressed a little, despite retaining the original music director. Although the overall musical ambiance is similar to what was used in the original series, and it still nails some of its more poignant numbers, the choices used for more active scenes are sometimes questionable fits. The opener and closer feature new songs and animation done very much in the style of the openers for the two TV seasons, including another saucy, chibi-animated closer featuring the Triomatic girls.
Sentai Filmworks is making these episodes available both separately and as part of their simultaneously-released Mahoromatic – Ultimate Collection, a move for which Sentai should be commended. The separate DVD only has a clean closer for an Extra, but it is dubbed, and by Bang Zoom! Entertainment (the dubbers of all of the earlier releases), too. As a result, most of the original English cast members have returned, after more than eight years off, to reprise their roles, and none miss a beat. The recast roles include Kiyomi, Toshiya, and Ryuga, but the only one of those three that is problematically different is Ryuga; while Keith Silverstein might have done an excellent job as Johan in Monster, he is a less-than-adequate replacement for David Lucas in this role. The subtitles are reasonably accurate, so overall one's opinion of the English dub from the original two TV series is likely to carry over here.
Ultimately I'm Home doesn't do anything special, but neither does it falter. It offers a pleasing final side story which is hardly required viewing for franchise fans but will not make completists feel like they are wasting their money.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Retains the style and sentiment of the original, delivers on fan service.
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